Background: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating disease of the newborn. We hypothesized that patient and institution level factors lead to NEC-related outcome disparities.
Methods: We analyzed the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development database for the years 1999-2004. We selected NEC-specific ICD-9-CM diagnosis and procedure codes. Mortality rate was the primary outcome measure, and length of stay was used a secondary end-point. We stratified the data by birth weight, gender, race/ethnicity, treatment, median household income, insurance status, admission type (inborn or outborn), and NICU levels.
Results: We identified 3328 infants with NEC (incidence of 1 per 1000 live births). Overall mortality within the NEC cohort was 12.5% (13.4 deaths per 100,000 live births). Male or Hispanic neonates were less likely to survive. Socioeconomic factors, including insurance status and parental median household income, were not predictors of mortality. Neonates treated surgically had a greater mortality rate compared with ones treated nonsurgically. PDA was present in 32% of patients with NEC, and these neonates were more likely to undergo gastrointestinal surgery. The odds of NEC-associated mortality in level IIIC units were significantly greater than any other NICU level. Admission type (inborn versus outborn) was not associated with increased mortality.
Conclusions: Disparities in NEC outcomes are multifactorial with patient- and treatment-specific factors contributing significantly to the unfavorable outcomes. These data suggest that advances in prediction modeling, prevention, and treatment algorithms are needed for clinicians and state health planners to positively impact this costly neonatal condition.